When reviewing the literature, it became apparent that a school’s culture develops from its leadership while the culture of a school can also affect the development of its leadership. Effective schools are required to engage in deliberate, intentional and long-term strategic thinking to guide the direction in which it is moving, as well as culture building by its leaders. Strategic thinking helps to create and build a bright and bold the vision of the future. The culture is the setting within which the vision takes hold and in turn, the vision characterises the school's culture (Bass & Avolio, 1994).
Effective school leadership is a function of culture building (Sashkin & Sashkin, 1990). Teamwork is an essential element for leadership to be truly released to lead in a visionary capacity. Without this capacity building teamwork where others were empowered to take on responsibilities, leaders became less effective to lead. They found that as the leader became the catalyst for change by investing in and inspiring their team they could transform into a flexible, adaptive, entrepreneurial, innovative and relational organisation (Sashkin & Sashkin, 1990).
Within the diverse environment of a school, the business of decision-making has become so complex that it is almost impossible to make everyone happy. Collaboration, different from cooperation and coordination as participants collaborate around a shared vision, decisions are made in a balanced democratic process and something new is created as a result of the joint effort (Blanchard, Ripley & Parisi-Carew, 2015). This type of decision-making process is important as members of an inclusive learning community work together as equals to assist students to succeed (Friend & Cook, 1992). It allows for value adding, transparency and consultation in decision making. While common agreement within this learning community is the goal, ultimately a decision needs to be made based on tactical direction and strategic planning to lead both the culture of the organisation and the people within it (Sashkin & Sashkin, 1990). Leadership is about making decisions and how these outwork, is impacted by the leader’s values, ethics and willingness to work through the conflicts (Begley & Johansson, 1998).
The leader’s ethics are the moral code and set of beliefs that shape the way they live, act and do life, it is the filter they use to decide what they will make and the world that they will create through their choices (Ross, 2013). “Values are the desirables that motivate individuals and collective groups to act in particular way to achieve a particular end” (Begley & Johansson, 1998 p. 339). Both ethics and values can be applied to larger organisations and determine what they will do and accept. This becomes an agreed code of conduct and set of beliefs that guides decisions. Without clarity and alignment, there is the potential for conflict of interest and ongoing tension.
Educational organisations that promote transformational leadership aligned with agreed code of conduct and collective set of beliefs frequently integrate creative insight, persistence and energy, intuition and sensitivity to the needs of others to draw on their skills and talents to speak into the vision (Sergiovanni, 2000). In doing so, they create buy-in and ownership, honouring what the stakeholders bring to the table to enhance the culture of an educational organisation. They generate a collaborative environment where connections between strategy, vision, culture, leadership and learning are coupled in consultation (Scott, Coates & Anderson, 2008). Leaders who draw on multiple perspectives to identify the areas that the organization will gain the greatest traction with the least amount of friction, giving the greatest successes. They also identify threats to success and ramifications from an educational, ethical and moral perspective and consider these impact the culture that is created.
Menzel (2012) suggests leadership that empowers conversations about the values and integrity of their organisation provide pathways to minimize the obstacles to ethics reform. He advocates understanding and willingness to act ethically and morally increases as the leader releases their myopia. As they begin to responsibly lead, they grasp the myriad of complexities, including conflicts of interest, appreciation of diversity, vision, tradition, competing agendas and how their decisions informed by these complexities impact the culture and the individuals within the educational organization.
Kem (2006) identifies that decision makers have an ethical responsibility accurately define and describe the problem before addressing possible solutions or determining the way forward. Through open dialogue leaders acknowledge the complexities of differing perspectives, minimizing the negative impact while gleaning the wisdom of others.
Menzel (2012) acknowledges historically, many leaders across industries, governments and organisations in getting the work done have failed to recognise the importance and impact of ethics. They lacked the awareness of or overlooked misconduct with relation to ethical problems, at all levels in an organisation because most work is done in an appropriate manner. He proposes that many of these leaders were not able see the consequences of the unethical conduct, often because they looked at the world through narrow, legalistic perspectives. As a result, emerging leaders are forced to become counter-cultural by introducing rules-based and values-based approaches to their own practice or adopting the unethical culture which has become the accepted norm.
School settings there may be highly nuanced relationships such as those that arise with psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers and other counterparts in a variety of other fields (Johnson, & Fauske, 2000, Cranston, Ehrich, & Kimber, 2006). These other occupations have established codes of professional ethics to guide practitioners as they traverse a broad range of grey areas and thick stories. Professionals are trained to discuss and contemplate these ambiguous situations as part of their preservice training and ongoing supervision. The isolation of education can work against teachers and leaders when faced with challenging ethical issues where there is no collective protocol or supervision on how to address them (Hutchings, 2009).
There is a growing body of research on the impact of ethical leadership on educators and schools in which they work. Explicit investigations have shown that leaders can proactively promote ethical behaviour and prevent unethical or corrupt behaviours in their organization (Starratt, 1991). Proactivity engenders trust and responsibility within the relationship between leadership and staff. Staff feel a sense of autonomy and that their work is of significance which leads to greater job performance and willingness to voice concerns in psychological safety to leadership.
Australia’s history has been fraught with leaders who seemingly lacked awareness of ethical dilemmas, for examples the White Australia policy, voting rights of Indigenous Australians, forced adoptions and the Stolen Generation (Wilkie, 1997). It would be remiss to state that education has been immune or in part reinforced the implications of this.
Therefore, as educational organisations become more proactive and aware of their responsibility to include (NSW Department of Education, 2016), care and cater for the diversity of students, staff and community members (Northedge, 2003) they have begun to develop codes of ethics, conduct and standards to guide teachers, educational leaders and the organisations themselves.
This is an acknowledgment that educators have a dual moral obligation as both values coaches and moral agents (Campbell, 2006; Lovat & McLeod, 2006). Codes of ethics and conduct endeavor to articulate shared professional values that represent the integrity of the profession. The intention is to provide some guidance for action around recognised issues and regulation which position teachers in sanctioned roles (Forster, 2012).
The ethics in education has much to do with access to equity and equality of resourcing for students despite gender, religion, cultural background, financial access, ability and location. All students should have the resources necessary for a high-quality education. Equality is the leveling the of playing field and equity is the action to provide more for those who need it. How these learning needs are provided for are based on ethical and moral decisions the educational leaders and organisations make. Through practice, alignment with values and ethics, educators and leaders can diminish the mistruths and stereotypes, empower inclusivity and improve access to opportunities in transparent and accountable modes. This outcome is important as it impacts the lives of students, their families and the futures they will lead.
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